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Advocacy for Inclusion Blog

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JUN
23

Self Advocacy Group Calendar July

Self-Advocacy Group Invitation

My NDIS
My life, My vision, My say

The National Disability Insurance scheme is starting in the ACT July 2014.

In July, our Self Advocacy group meetings will talk about being ready for your first NDIS planning meeting.

We will be meeting twice a week 30th June – 31st July
They will run in the Griffin Centre Level 2 room 9:

Monday
3:30-5pm

Thursday
1-2:30pm

Attend one or both groups!

TOPICS COVERED

Week 1 “Let’s get started”
Am I eligible for the NDIS?

Week 2  “All about Me and my life now”
What supports do I have now?

Week 3 “My vision, My Life”
What are my goals? What are my dreams?

Week 4 “Let’s get things happening”
What steps do I need to take to reach my goals?

Week 5 “My NDIS, My say”
My ideas for a meeting with my Individual NDIS Planner

Resources and Folder provided

 

 

 

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JUN
16

Control & Choice Expo 2014

Control & Choice Expo 2014

On 22 May 2014 Advocacy for Inclusion hosted the Control & Choice Expo with great success. Over 2000 visitors attended the event, with more than 110 businesses and charities from Canberra and the surrounding region showcasing what products and services they have to offer people with disabilities.

The aim of the Control & Choice Expo was to give people with disabilities the opportunity to see for themselves, what programs and services are available to them.

Advocacy for Inclusion was proud to host an event with the help of many great volunteers and sponsors: ABC 666 Canberra, Bank MECU and ACT government Community Services Directorate. 

The Day Kicked off with an Outside broadcast from 666 ABC Canberra and hosted by the Control & Choice Expo Patron, Genevieve Jacobs.

Genevieve Jacobs took the time to explore some of the more quirky types of services on offer, such as Floating Beach Wheelchairs, life coaching services and Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (pictured).

As the Patron of the expo Jacobs wanted to send the message that “Everyone deserves to speak with their own voice and everyone's individual gifts and abilities deserve recognition. The implementation of the NDIS promises a fresh start and a new direction for many, and the Control and Choice Expo will provide a strong, locally oriented starting point for that journey."

You can read her entire message at: http://www.advocacyforinclusion.org/index.php/88-uncategorized/153-message-from-our-patron

Visitors arrived in droves from 10am, many keen to see what programs, products and services are available for people with disabilities in Canberra.

Organisations provided visitors with a wealth of information, and opportunities for future support, while exhibitors were able to network with local and interstate organisations. 

Nicole from Australian Healthcall said “It allowed everyone to come together in one place and give exposure particularly for several people who had no idea how to access service.”

Many people were thrilled to have so many diverse organisations under the one roof, an opportunity that many people with disabilities have never had before.

 

 2014-05-22 09.40.08 ABC 666 cirtificateCC Expo 16webCC Expo 39web

 

Missed out on the Control & Choice Expo 2014?

A full list of exhibitors can be found at: http://www.advocacyforinclusion.org/index.php/control-choice-expo/exhibitor-profiles

Also you can drop into our office for a free Control & Choice Expo showbag with the Exhibitors’ Guide and exhibitor information from the day. Get in quick!  

A full list of our fantastic volunteers and supporters can be found at: http://www.advocacyforinclusion.org/index.php/control-choice-expo/thank-you

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JUN
12

Overview: Submission to the proposed ACT Out of Home Care Strategy

Overall, Advocacy for Inclusion supports the proposed Strategy. Many initiatives outlined show great potential to support the needs of families headed by parents with disabilities.  

 

In particular we support the service elements proposed under the Strengthening High Risk Families Domain, which include intensive in-home placement prevention and restoration supports. We expect that the introduction of such supports will lead to very positive outcomes parents and children with disabilities, as well as significantly reduce pressures on the out of home care system.

 

We also support the proposed improvements in oversight and governance of out of home care agencies, particularly in light of the investigations and recommendations made by the ACT Public Advocate’s Office.

 

We strongly recommend that these initiatives are followed through as they represent an important shift in service delivery, which will contribute to the development of a more effective and sustainable child protection system.

 

However, we remain concerned that a lack of acknowledgement of people with disabilities as parents and the particular barriers they face will result in continued exclusion of people with disabilities as valued family participants. Parents with disabilities and their children are overrepresented in the child protection system; we are looking for improvements to the proposed Strategy to ensure that they are not forgotten or further marginalised.

 

Here are some of our recommendations summarised:

 

·         Acknowledge people with disabilities as parents and the particular barriers they face.

 

·         Include provision to routinely collect demographical data about parents and children in the child protection system, including whether or not they have disability.

 

·         Acknowledge that some parents with disabilities require ongoing support and this must not be mistaken for an inability to address concerns that brought their child into care. In these cases assessment must take into consideration whether the parent has the capacity to be a ‘good enough’ parent with access to adequate and appropriate parenting supports.

 

·         Include independent community based advocacy for children in the out of home care system.

 

You can see our full submission here.

 

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MAY
13

Without advocacy ...

We got word yesterday that Mel had died. She was a lovely woman we’d known for a number of years and had assisted with advocacy. She had also participated in our women’s self-advocacy course last month.

 

Mel’s mother was so pleased to hear from us when we rang to offer condolences. It gave her the opportunity to let us know that it was our advocacy that had contributed substantially to Mel having a great last few years.

 

When we first assisted Mel she was in enormous pain, her wheelchair was terribly uncomfortable and she couldn’t sit in it for very long. She spent most of her days in bed feeling miserable. She asked us to just help her to get the pain under control. No one seemed to listen to her concerns about the pain or the chair. She just wanted someone to listen.

 

We got her medications checked and improved. We worked on having the wheelchair reassessed and fixed to suit her.

 

Mel then became active in her local church social group. She’d catch up with the ladies once a week and they’d chat, do craft and go places together. Mel’s life became a joy to her and to the ladies. They all checked on each other, socialised outside group times, and had a ball. The local paper interviewed her and the group. The article appeared with a lovely photo that spoke volumes. We have it stuck on the wall in our office.

 

Without advocacy Mel’s last few years would have remained pain ridden, inactive, and miserable. The assumption that she couldn’t do anything, and there wasn’t much point, would have continued. Without advocacy her family would have continued to watch her fade away in the most horrible circumstances.

 

Instead Mel had some years in the sun, living in the community and enjoying life.

 

Vale Mel – you were amazing.

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MAY
12

No such thing as "easy welfare" - People wtih disabilities WANT JOBS

At the weekend Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews spoke of changes in the upcoming federal budget:

 

“The days of easy welfare for young Australians is over and we expect people who are capable of working to be working… We put people on it and it’s a kind of set and forget payment.”  

 

He was talking about people with disabilities aged under 35 who are currently receiving the Disability Support Pension.

 

At Advocacy for Inclusion we know that there is no such thing as “easy welfare” for people with disabilities. For them, there is no forgetting that they are on the pension. There is no forgetting that you can’t have the nice things other Australians have because you simply don’t have the means.

 

In late 2012 we talked to 20 people with disabilities in the ACT to find out about their future hopes and dreams, and their experience of control and choice. The findings painted a very concerning picture.

 

People with disabilities want access to the basics of the Australian lifestyle that most take for granted:

 

·         To move out of the family home;

·         To live with the people of their choice (instead of having no control over the people that live in their home);

·         To go on a holiday of their choice (instead of being forced to go on “respite” with people they did not choose and to locations they do not choose);

·         To get out and about in the community and mingle with other people;

·         To learn and maintain living skills and independence.

 

People with disabilities were unable to realise these goals because they lacked the resources and the supports to do so. As Advocacy for Inclusion’s General Manager Christina Ryan blogged last week, people with disabilities are not looking for a gold plated service. People with disabilities are not living comfortable, easy lives on the pension.

 

Most significantly, almost everybody told us that they want to get a job or work more hours. They want jobs. If they already have a job, they want to work more hours. The Disability Discrimination Commissioner explains “What we have is an employment problem, not a rorting problem”.

 

Many people with disabilities in our study had been trying to get a job for a number of years. Some did unpaid work for churches, charities and hospitals. Some had been placed in training course after training course as they waited for a job offer; years of training but still no job. Some were still persisting despite being exited from Disability Employment Services, having concluded that there was no hope for them; employers were not willing to give them a chance. And some, after having been through all of this – the long periods of unpaid work, the training, the rejection – had finally given up but they still longed for a job.

 

People with disabilities do not want an easy ride and they are not getting one. They want jobs! Portraying people with disabilities as ‘dole bludgers’ does nothing to help them get into the labour market because employer attitudes are already a big barrier for people with disabilities. We need the government to support people with disabilities to get jobs, not push them further into poverty and reinforce negative stereotypes.

 

 

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MAY
05

Don't Mess with the NDIS

Don’t Mess with the NDIS

 

 

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is underway with launch sites trialling in various locations and further launch sites imminent. Many people with disabilities, their families, and supporters are excited to be so close to a better world where people might finally have what they need, live with dignity, in less pain, as members of the community.

 

In recent times there have been suggestions that the Scheme might be overspending its targets or that people with disabilities might be getting more than they “deserve”. These suggestions aren’t new, some doubters have always suspected that people want “gold plated service”; others simply can’t understand the full impact of disability on a person and those around them.

 

No one who is around anyone with disability talks like this, its others who don’t understand and who question the genuine need for support.

 

Some suggested solutions are: to cap packages, or maybe means test eligibility, or perhaps slow down the Scheme altogether until we know how it might operate.

 

None of these suggestions will work, and all will profoundly sabotage an NDIS that has been well thought out, has addressed the doubts, and which will work well if allowed to.

 

Capping Packages

 

Every person with disability is different. Some people require substantial support, others need less. Some people need a large amount of equipment just to be able to get out of bed and shower; other people require no specialist equipment at all. In short, capping packages will severely limit those people who do need substantial supports to live with dignity.

 

We cannot predict how the dice falls for any person and the few people who will need larger packages are balanced out by those who may only require some basics. This is why there is an understanding of an average sized package, only a few people will have that average, most will fall under or over. That’s how averages work. It’s how the insurance system works and that’s what the NDIS is based on.

 

In short the economists have sorted this one out and built it in.

 

The NDIS is already capped. Only 10% of the disability population will be eligible for Tier 3 packages. All other people with disabilities, over 3.5 million Australians will receive necessary bits and pieces under Tier 2; they won’t get an annual package because they don’t need it.

 

Means Testing

 

Disability can cost a lot, a real lot. Look at the size of the Tier 3 packages that some people will need and you start to get the idea. Imagine if you had to find $65,000 every year to get the equipment and support that you need.

 

That’s “need” not “want”.

 

Disability isn’t discretionary. You can’t decide that something else is more important. You just have to spend what it takes or go without. Up until now many Australians with disabilities have actually gone without. According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare just about all the targeted Tier 3 people have been going without for years. Those than can get supports and equipment get less than half of what they need. Many don’t get even close to that. That’s what the NDIS is for and why it’s so important. It’s embarrassing that it’s taken so long. 

 

How would means testing work in practice?

 

Will means testing apply to only the individual, or would it also be applied to the family that they live with (household income)? Does this mean that a 35 year old living at home with their parents would have their NDIS limited, or would find themselves ineligible for Tier 3 support, because their parents both work or own a house worth over $400,000 for example?

 

Perhaps means testing would mean that anyone on an income over $100,000 is unable to access Tier 3 packages. But what happens if that person actually has an annual cost of disability of $60,000?

 

People with disabilities often refer to the “cost of disability” and how it keeps them poor. There is a small cohort of people who do self-fund at present because all current supports and equipment schemes ARE means tested. These few become trapped in public housing or stuck living with their parents because they never have a capacity to save or to become truly financially independent – despite working.

 

Means testing the NDIS will act as a barrier to employment. Why would you get a job for more money, or work harder, when it will result in your losing your vital supports or equipment? There is no point going from a job paying $50,000pa to a job paying $60,000pa if the means test is set at $55,000. Why, because your cost of disability is large and losing access to the Scheme isn’t worth the extra income when your cost of disability is $40,000pa.

 

No, the NDIS must be universal and remain about disability not about income. We want to encourage people to participate not actively discourage them by putting significant barriers in place to being employed.

 

Slowing the NDIS rollout

 

The Commission of Audit made the curious recommendation to slow down the rollout of the NDIS. Given that the Productivity Commission identified that the NDIS will result in a major growth in GDP this seems strange.

 

Oh, and the Productivity Commission wasn’t expecting that, they were actually surprised by their own finding.

 

If the Australian economy is in such trouble then surely something that will substantially contribute to growth should be embraced with open arms. The NDIS is that something. It’s on the same scale as building major infrastructure, or opening a big new mine. It will grow jobs, reduce dependence on welfare, and will ultimately create over 1% of GDP.

 

Perhaps the government should consider rolling it out faster to assist with the budget bottom line?

 

Don’t Mess with the NDIS

 

Many of the issues facing the NDIS today have been facing it since it was first envisaged. The Productivity Commission, various bureaucrats, politicians and the community have all raised concerns about eligibility, sustainability and overall cost. Working on those concerns has resulted in the NDIS that is being rolled out today.

 

Sure it isn’t perfect but that’s why there is a trial aspect to the launch sites.

 

The Scheme has already been narrowed significantly by setting eligibility for Tier 3 packages at a population level of 10% of Australians with disabilities. Further limiting the Scheme will only damage it. These suggestions risk making the NDIS a shadow of its intended self and in danger of becoming an echo of the old system we are trying to abandon.

 

Everyone wants this to work, we all want it to be sustainable, and for those who need it to get it. There certainly aren’t any people with disabilities or their families and supporters who don’t want it to work. Seriously is anybody suggesting this? Are current doubters raising anything new? No.

 

Most people with disabilities aren’t getting what they need, many aren’t even close. The NDIS will take courage, enthusiasm, honesty, but most of all persistence.

 

What it doesn’t need is doubters talking it down. It doesn’t need to be revised at every turn before it’s even underway and through its first year. So much of the work and those difficult questions have already been addressed.

 

What the NDIS needs is to get underway and to get on with it.

 

 

Christina Ryan is the General Manager of Advocacy for Inclusion and the Chair of the Disability Advocacy Network of Australia. She is also a person with disability who uses support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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APR
29

Critique: The New Framework for Reducing and Eliminating Restrictive Practices in the Disability Service Sector

Last year Advocacy for Inclusion made a submission to the draft National Framework for Reducing and Eliminating the Use of Restrictive Practices in the Disability Service Sector. The updated Framework was endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Disability Ministers on 21 March 2014.

 

The final Framework is a significant improvement on the draft version. A number of the changes that Advocacy for Inclusion wanted to see have been made. Some of the positive developments include:

 

1.       Adding the “elimination” of restrictive practices as a core aim of the Framework rather than only “reducing” them;

 

2.       Adding that challenging behaviours are "perceived”. The concept is fluid and subjective, not absolute or fixed;

 

3.       Including the full range of restrictive practices in the definition of restrictive practices. This includes environmental and psycho-social restraints and consequence driven practices;

 

4.       Using the full range of the relevant aspects of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the guiding principles;

 

5.       Improving the outline of a “person-centred focus” in the guiding principles. This includes recognising the presumption of decision making capacity and clarifying that people with disabilities are the "natural authorities" over their own lives, with support from others as required;

 

6.       Removing "best interests" as a concept informing the Framework.

 

Unfortunately, there remain major problems with the Framework. It has missed the mark in terms of the overall angle and lacks discussion on how restrictive practices ought to be conceptualised in order to inform the work we do to eliminate these practices:

 

1.       There is no reference to the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020. The National Disability Strategy outlines the direction of public policy regarding people with disabilities, yet the new Framework is not explicitly informed or guided by this Strategy.

 

2.       The dilemmas in determining when restrictive practices are ‘needed’ are not identified or explored in the Framework. Restrictive practices are theoretically intended to protect a person's rights and safety; however, often these practices are used for the wrong reasons. Indeed the idea of "last resort” or what the “right reasons" might be are extremely subjective and difficult to determine. The Framework fails to acknowledge these tensions and dilemmas, which are a central issue for people with disabilities and the people supporting them. Along with acknowledging these issues, perhaps an outline of principles for navigating such issues would also have been helpful.

 

3.       The social model of disability is absent from the Framework. The social model should have formed basis for conceptualising ‘challenging behaviours’ and ‘restrictive practices’. The way we understand these concepts makes a major difference to how we seek to eliminate restrictive practices. The social model would draw focus to the social causes of ‘challenging behaviour’ and the social points for intervention. For example, unmet need, legitimate expressions of resistance and protest, inadequate supports, ill-equipped support people, and cultural issues that exclude and devalue people with disabilities. The social model does not ignore a person's impairment. Communication barriers due to impairment and the behavioural responses to pain and trauma, for example, are also relevant. But when we use a social approach we can understand these issues in terms of what can be done to meet the person’s needs. The focus lands on what changes could be made to the person’s supports and environment in order to support their communication needs or pain management needs etc rather than on how the person can be fixed or controlled to stop the ‘challenging behaviour’, as might be the approach using the medical model of disability.

 

The absence of the social model means that individualistic models (such as the medical model) will be used to interpret the Framework by default as these are the dominant models. People with disabilities have long identified that sole use of individualistic models for understanding disability and disability related issues is very unhelpful and even harmful. The Framework needed to guide the disability service sector to use the social model of disability to understand restrictive practices and how to eliminate them, as it is also used in the National Disability Strategy to understand other issues facing people with disabilities.

 

 

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APR
28

Why do people with disabilities need access to domestic violence law? FAQs Addressed

Everyone, including people with disabilities, has the right to be safe from violence in our own homes. The law should protect this right but many people with disabilities are excluded from domestic violence law in the ACT.

 

People with disabilities are at greater risk of violence, especially when they live in disability specific service settings. In these settings – including large institutions, smaller supported accommodation facilities (such as group houses and cluster housing), and psychiatric facilities – people with disabilities are subjected to violence by the people they live with and the people they are supported by.

 

The ACT Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 provides victims of violence in domestic relationships a “greater level of protective response”. This Act does not recognise the relationships common among people with disabilities as “domestic”. This includes relationships in supported accommodation and other informal arrangements such as home-sharing*. People with disabilities are excluded from the “greater level of protective response” afforded to other members of the community. This must stop. Domestic violence legislation must extend protection to people with disabilities living in a range of domestic settings.

 

Advocacy for Inclusion is asked some frequent questions about the right for people with disabilities to access domestic violence legislation. Here they are along with our answers:

 

Q: If the homes where people with disabilities live don’t involve family or intimate partner relationships, why should they be considered “domestic relationships”?

 

A: People with disabilities live in these settings on a permanent basis, wherein they have domestic relations. They might live with a co-resident for a number of years, interact daily, build highly personal relationships, share living space, groceries, and jointly own furniture. These are undoubtedly domestic relationships, which can become violent. Just because these domestic relationships are ‘unconventional’ and might meet particular disability support needs this should not disqualify a person from equal protections from domestic violence. This discriminates on the basis of disability.

 

Q: Won’t people with disabilities be inappropriately criminalised, particularly when they might not understand their actions or have been placed in the home without choice?

 

A: It is often (but not always) inappropriate to criminalise a person with disability using violence in a disability specific service setting. Violence is often systemically induced by the lack of control and choice afforded to people with disabilities in these settings. The domestic violence law in NSW covers disability specific home settings and general share-house arrangements. Our colleagues in NSW tell us they rarely use the legislation to pursue criminal charges unless the victim wishes to do so. Any person experiencing domestic violence should be able to make that choice, regardless of whether they live in a disability specific arrangement or not. As in all other cases brought to court, the court is responsible for determining whether the user of violence should be held criminally responsible, and how the user of violence should be appropriately relocated and supported.

 

Q: Is this really an issue for the legal system? Shouldn’t the disability service providers deal with it?

 

A: The answer to this question is multifaceted.

 

1.    Having disability support needs and living in disability specific settings due to these support needs should never be the basis to exclude a person from accessing justice. This is discrimination.

 

2.    People with disabilities face enormous power inequalities in disability specific service settings and informal caring relationships. They rely on the support provider to access day-to-day necessities. In supported accommodation, they usually have little say over household routines, the provision of support, or who lives in their household. It is the job of the law to help balance out power inequalities when power is abused and when relationships within these settings become unsafe.

 

3.    Research shows that violence thrives in places where outsiders are kept out. For a range of reasons, many disability service providers have failed to identify and resolve issues of violence in service settings. This includes a lack of understanding and awareness and it also includes the deliberate use of violence and cover-ups. This is not for the disability sector to deal with outside of the law and without community scrutiny.

 

The purpose of legislative reform would be to ensure that people with disabilities are protected from violence at home on an equal basis to people without disabilities. The legal framework in NSW has promoted greater recognition of domestic violence in disability specific settings. This has led to better responses by service providers and by government, including the funding of appropriately targeted programs and resources. This is sorely lacking in the ACT, with many people with disabilities ineligible for appropriate services due to the definition in the legislation, such as the Domestic Violence Crisis Service.

 

People with disabilities need the general community to recognise that just because their living arrangements looks a little different to the mainstream idea of “domestic”, they too feel the full impact of domestic violence and need to be safe in their homes. The legal framework in NSW should be adopted in the ACT and other jurisdictions to afford people with disabilities the same safeguards against domestic violence as everyone else.

 

* Home-sharing includes arrangements where person with disability shares with one or more unrelated people who provide informal supports in exchange for benefits such as reduced rent.

 

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APR
16

Extra Self-advocacy Group meetings

Advocacy for Inclusion is very excited to be adding extra Self-advocacy Group meetings to our schedule over the next few months.

 

Are you a Self-advocate and want to catch up with other Self-advocates more often? Then this is your opportunity!

 

The Group will be Co-facilitated by Self-advocates, and you can talk about the issues that interest you.

 

With support from the ACT NDIS Taskforce we will be running 2 extra Group meetings each week until the end of June 2014. The Groups are open to all of our Self-advocates and to people with disabilities who have wanted to do a Self-advocacy Course with us. All meetings will happen here in the Griffin Centre.

 

Groups will be meeting on:

- Wednesdays from 2 pm to 3.30 pm, and

- Thursdays from 1 pm to 2.30 pm.

 

If you would like more information you can contact the Training team on training@advocacyforinclusion.org or by calling the office on 6257 4005.

 

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APR
15

NDIS trial sites - what's going on for parents with disabilities??

 

At Advocacy for Inclusion we are doing a brief analysis on how people with disabilities are accessing parenting supports in the NDIS trial sites.

 

Are parents with disabilities using the NDIS to access parenting support? If yes, how is this going? If no, why not?

 

If you have experience in the trial sites as a parent with disability, or if you work with parents with disabilities, please share your experience with us! We want to write a brief report to share publicly on this issue.

 

Contact Ellen at ellen@advocacyforinclusion.org or phone (02) 62574005

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APR
07

Supporting parents with disabilities - Good practice VIDEO

Did you know that people with disabilities can and do parent well with the right support? This video by Healthy Start provides a fabulous overview of good practice approaches. Healthy Start is a national capacity building strategy which aims to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for children whose parents have learning difficulties.

 This is a must see for health professionals, practitioners working with families and children, and anyone working with people with disabilities:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMyegwFEwZU&feature=youtu.be

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APR
01

Men's Self-advocacy Course - Final Week

Sadly our Men’s course came to an end today, but we have had a great week to finish it off!

After meeting to chat with our auditors our General Manager Christina presented the men with a t-shirt in our “Ask me, I make my own decisions” design. (See picture below)

We then set off separately to our destination out at Yarralumla. Many phone calls and driving circles later we finally managed to meet up in one place for our BBQ! Little did we know that our final week was going to be a unit in problem solving and team work skills!! Luckily we passed with flying colours and enjoyed a relaxing BBQ, socialising and getting to know each other better.

Most of the men were keen to join the Self-advocacy Group to continue their development and building their social networks, and one of the men is already planning to book in for his next course.

Thanks to all the men for your enthusiastic and supportive participation in the course. Thanks also to the Canberra Men’s Centre for their support, and to all our guest speakers.

If you are interested in finding out more about our next Men’s Self-advocacy course please contact us on 6257 4005, email training@advocacyforinclusion.org or on our website http://www.advocacyforinclusion.org/index.php/training/2013-training-calendar#MeSA2

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4473 Hits
MAR
31

Women's Self-advocacy Course - Week 3

Our topics last Thursday were Decision Making and Speaking Up for Yourself. Very timely as one of the women had an issue she needed to work through!

Decision making may seem easy but it’s important to work through the steps, especially for bigger decisions such as where to live and who with, which job to work in, where to go for holidays and so on. It’s important to look at the underlying issues that may be present and consider the possible benefits and risks for each decision and outcome.  Steps in decision making include:

1.                   What is the decision about?

2.                   What are the options?

3.                   Evaluate the possibilities

4.                   Make your decision & do it!

5.                   Monitor & Evaluate

We then worked through a Step by Step Plan that will support self-advocates to speak up. If you’d like to download this plan and give it a try you can see it as part of our free Self-advocacy Kit here: http://www.advocacyforinclusion.org/index.php/88-uncategorized/131-sa-kit-list - it is item 2.3

We are looking forward to guest speakers from SHFPACT on safe relationships, and ACT Health on women’s health in the coming weeks.

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MAR
26

Fabulous guest speakers for Men's Self-advocacy!

Our second last week was a great one with guest speakers from SHFPACT and Canberra Men’s Centre.

Rose and Mel from SHFPACT (Sexual Health & Family Planning ACT) came along to speak with the men about safe relationships. We talked about kinds of relationships and what’s OK in them. We also talked about consent and ways of saying “no” and “yes” to sexual touching, or touching of any kind. We also learned about the services they provide in their clinic including sexual health and contraception.

You can find out more about SHFPACT on their website http://www.shfpact.org.au/ and their disability program here http://www.shfpact.org.au/index.php/community-health-promotion/disability-services-programs

Alastair from the Canberra Men’s Centre spoke with the men about recognising and managing emotions, including anger. One of the men had previously done an Anger Management course with CMC and told us how much it had helped him with remaining calm and dealing with issues.  Alastair also spoke about their services including counselling, accommodation for men at risk of homelessness or in the criminal justice system, and a program for men with disabilities. Find out more about CMC on their website http://www.menscentre.org.au/

Afterward the men commented how interesting they’d found all the information.  Thank you so much to Rose, Mel and Alastair!

 

If you’re interested in finding out more about SHFPACT they are holding a morning tea for service providers:

Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT - the hard to say acronym!) would like to invite service providers from the ACT and NSW to come along to morning tea on Friday 28 March 2014 from 10.00am - 12.00pm.

We would like to inform people of the services we provide including the clinical, education, disability and training programs we run. Come for a relaxed morning tea, a short presentation, take a tour of the clinic and browse the bookshop for a gem that might help in your work.

We have lots of resources and knowledge to help you understand more about sexual and reproductive health, the development of healthy relationships and a positive sense of self through providing everyone with access to comprehensive and current information.

If you would like to come along and catch up please RSVP to training@shfpact.org.au or call 6247 3077 and ask for the Education Team.

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MAR
25

RE: Is the NDIS actually taking choice away from people with disabilities?

Although the NDIS is about improving control and choice for people with diabilities by introducing individualised funding, some people are upset with the changes. Recently Todd Winther wrote for ABC about his very positive experience living at Youngcare Appartments. He criticised the NDIS for threatening his arrangement by phasing out block funding (where a number of people share a pool of disability support funds):

‘Quite rightly, the government has expressed reservations about giving those with high care needs (and/or their advocates) access to large buckets of money to use at their discretion. Block funding provides the ideal solution to this problem, as long as individuals agree to this choice… the individualised funding model proposed under the NDIS won't work for us.’

 I couldn’t agree more with Mr Winther on the fact that his own living arrangements ought to be his own choice. But in my view, people shouldn’t have to ‘agree’ to a ‘choice’; they should be able to make choice from options on an equal basis with non-disabled people. This is what real choice is about and this is what individualised funding will help achieve.

 Mr Winther implies that it’s not ideal for people with ‘high care needs’ to have individual funds. As Dr George Taleporos has also pointed out, these criticisms might hinder the much needed change happening with the NDIS. It also unnecessarily feeds community fears surrounding the NDIS and reinforces the all too common belief that people with ‘high care needs’ are burdensome and not worthy of the money it might cost to maximise their independence and quality of life.

 I wonder if Mr Winther spoke to each person individually at Youngcare (not ‘or their advocates’, who sound a bit like substitute decision makers in his article) to find out what they actually want? Just because they might want to stay at Youngcare now it doesn’t mean they don’t want autonomy over their support packages or that they won’t change their minds in the future. Regardless of disability support needs, everyone has the right to choose their living arrangements on an equal basis (Article 19 of the UN CRPD).

 The NDIS legislation specifically says that each consumer’s existing networks and supports should be considered. This offers the capacity for individuals transitioning from a block funded arrangement to draw up their own plan with consideration for how their existing living arrangement might enable the continued sharing of supports, if this is indeed what they want to do. The NDIS creates the opportunity for people with disabilities to make these choices. It provides the long overdue alternative to being forced to ‘agree’ with the only option available, which is what happens under the block funded system.

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MAR
13

Independent advocacy is vital to the success of NDIS

Independent advocacy organisations are working hard to ensure a successful launch for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), including here in the ACT which launches on 1 July 2014. Independent advocacy organisations are uniquely placed to understand the pressures and constraints of the NDIS nationally as close to 100% of our consumers will become recipients of the new scheme.

 

No other sector is as exposed to the NDIS as the independent advocacy sector, and no other sector is facing this level of demand as a result. The NDIS will cover approximately 10% of the national disability population, yet the people who the NDIS is targeted at are the same people who need advocates and who look to DANA member organisations for support.

 

Many people with disabilities will actually need advocacy support to even apply for the NDIS and to be able to express their needs and wishes about what their support should look like.

 

Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have also been actively engaged in NDIS preparations yet for most their exposure to the NDIS will be about 10% of their membership as they more closely represent the whole disability population. Of course there are a few who will be different, particularly those who focus on diagnostic groups who have high support needs, but even then it won’t be 100% of their members.

 

The key focus for both sectors (independent advocacy and DPOs) is for the human rights of people with disabilities and equitable access to the NDIS.

 

DANA member organisations, including Advocacy for Inclusion, are already experiencing a large increase in demand for advocacy and are working hard to meet that demand with our scarce resources. We are already a poorly funded sector which struggles to provide as much advocacy as people with disabilities need, and the NDIS is estimated to at least double the current levels of advocacy required.

 

When considering the NDIS advocacy needs of our consumer base it is probable that demand will be even more than double what is currently delivered.

 

Another contribution to the success of the NDIS roll out by advocacy organisations is our role in highlighting where it needs tweaking to work better. Advocates are in the front line when things go wrong or they don’t work as planned. By raising these issues with our peak body, DANA, we can inform the NDIA and government quickly about what might work better or more effectively.

 

We are monitoring some of the areas where the NDIS will make real change, for example, how many packages will include parenting support? Will this make a real difference in the lives of the many women with disabilities who have their children removed into out of home care? We certainly hope so.

 

We expect to see many more people with disabilities involved in the community. This should lead to better mental health outcomes and a drop in the high rate of mental illness amongst those with high support needs.

 

Advocacy for Inclusion is looking forward to making the NDIS a success in partnership with our independent advocacy colleagues around Australia. Our contribution will be large, and exciting, but we embrace the challenge.

 

 

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MAR
12

Local Matters Donation

In January Advocacy for Inclusion participated in Grill'd's Local Matters program.

grill'd local matters jarThis initiative aims to get local groups/charities a greater awareness within the local community by getting diners to  pick, (by placing a token in a jar) 1 of 3 charities/groups that they would like to see go in the running for $300 donation, with the  runners up getting $100.

Advocacy for Inclusion came away with a donation of $100, which will go towards funding our  self-advocacy  course for people with disabilities. 

We would like to thank Grill'd Canberra Centre for their lovely service and support. 

We would also like to thank everyone who put a token in our jar!

$100 may not seem like much, but for us as little as:

  • $25 Buys fresh food for one week of our Nutrition and Self-advocacy course 
  • $50 Provides one comprehensive Self-advocacy manual, a resource for future self-advocacy
  • $80 Pays for a return trip by taxi for a self-advocate to attend training or our self-advocacy network
  • $123 Hires a training room for one session of Self-advocacy education

A small donation can go a long way to help people with disability speak up for themselves, but without donations we cannot keep these courses running. 

If you would like to donate to Advocacy for Inclusion you can donate Online through Hands Across Canberra or by downloading a donations form off our website  

Grill'd certificate

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MAR
05

Men's Self-advocacy - Weeks 3 & 4

Week 3 of our course focussed on the men identifying what they need from others in order to be strong self-advocates.

In Week 4 we spent time discussing aggressive, passive and assertive styles of behaviour and why they are or aren't effective. We watched the locally made movie Beautiful http://www.artsaccessaustralia.org/news/230-beautiful and identified and discussed behaviour styles and more effective ways of dealing with issues.

Each week we spend time discussing individual goals for change, and a group goal. The group's goal will culminate in an outing at our final session.

We also read and discussed several recent or relevant articles of interest:


People with learning disabilities need to be empowered to fight their cause
http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2014/feb/20/learning-disabilitychange-charity


Judge gives test for disabled an F
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/judge-gives-test-for-disabled-an-f/story-fn59nokw-1226551452138

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MAR
04

Counting Parents with Disabilities IN - CSD Out of Home Care Strategy Discussion Paper

The Community Services Directorate released a discussion paper late last year about the development of an Out of Home Care Strategy for children and young people in the ACT. We made a submission highlighting the issues facing parents with disabilities in the child protection system.

 

Although people with disabilities have more recently achieved greater recognition of their family and reproductive rights, they are widely viewed as ‘childlike’ and are not understood and accepted as people who can or should become parents. This is especially the case for people with cognitive impairment. International research shows that parents with disabilities can indeed parent with support as needed.

 

Australia is a signatory to the CRPD, which places obligations on the ACT Government to uphold the right for parents with disabilities to care for their children with appropriate supports. At the moment, parents with disabilities are an incredibly marginalised group in the ACT. Resources that are accessible and meet the needs of this group are scarce. In several cases at Advocacy for Inclusion, children have been removed from parents because no appropriate support was available to help them care for their children.

 

The development of the Out of Home Care Strategy 2015-2020 presents a pivotal opportunity to respond to the rights of parents with disabilities in accordance with Government obligations. It outlines some positive directions, which Advocacy for Inclusion commends. In our response we outline several initiatives for inclusion in the Strategy to ensure that parents with disabilities are counted in as valued family participants:

 

1.    Ensuring that parents with disabilities are actually on the agenda in the first place;

2.    Placement prevention strategies that specifically target the needs of parents with disabilities;

3.    Reunification strategies that target the specific needs of parents with disabilities;

4.    Strategies to support the contact between children and parents when a child is in a permanent care placement.

 

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FEB
26

Submission to UN CRPD Committee Draft General Comment on Article 12

This month Advocacy for Inclusion made a submission to the CRPD Committee’s Draft General Comment on Article 12 (equal recognition before the law). You can see our full submission here. Overall, the Draft General Comment proposes a robust and progressive framework, which has the potential to clarify ongoing misunderstandings about expectations under Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

In particular, Advocacy for Inclusion applauds the clear statement that legal capacity must not be granted on an assimilationist basis, and that support to exercise legal capacity should never amount to substitute decision-making, which is fundamentally a denial of legal capacity.

 

We outlined for the Committee some areas for further development, including clarification that in supported decision-making, the person with disability is the decision maker and the support people are the decision supporters. We also recommended that restrictive practices be discussed in the General Comment.

 

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